You are a Brand
Ah, networking and professionalism. The dreaded part of what it means to be an adult. “Professionalism” has been sneaking up on me in gradual doses ever since I left high school and it hasn’t given any rest since then. First it began with crits in art school, hanging my pieces perfectly straight at eye-level. Next came making stellar eye contact and speaking articulately about said pieces, from process to concept. I was horrible at that for about a year and a half. After that came presentations, properly worded emails, interview opportunities, and the list goes on.
After going through several mentoring sessions with Leslie (who is crazy fantastic), I really wonder why this isn’t a required curriculum, or at least an option of learning in school. For some people, this kind of thing comes naturally. For people like me, it doesn’t. People often tell me I need more details and specificities, even when I felt like I was pouring a lot of detail in. I heard this a lot and sometimes I felt confused as if I just wasn’t getting it.
What made me wrap my head around the concept of professionalism where it totally made sense is removing myself as an individual and approaching myself as if I were a designer. If I were a product, how would I brand myself to present me in the best way possible?
1. Know Yourself
If you are a designing a product, how professional are you if you do not know the strengths, weaknesses, and core characteristics of your creation? When you pitch your product, if you don’t know the basics, how will you ever get the greenlight?
2. Details and Specificities
Knowing yourself, or the idea you are selling is the first step. The next comes with details and specifics that back up the claim and/or gives a larger picture.
For example, Apple is known for their simplicity. If all they advertised was, “our products are simple”, what does that even mean? Amish people live simple lives, idiots are simple-minded, is that what you mean? Because there isn’t enough information, the connotation can come off as lacking or plain, as opposed to Apple’s intention of simple = innovative + clutter-free.
Because my largest problem remained in not being detailed enough, often times my take is even when I think I am being detailed, I’m probably not. So I have to approach the task by adding in 200% more detail. Add in clarity and (necessary) details to the point where no one can question or make assumptions about you.
Just like the neurotic tendencies in graphic design, to truly be in tip top shape of your professionalism game, you must nitpick like there’s no tomorrow. For identity design, no decision is ever made lightly. The type is selected with care, the individual space between each letter tweaked and adjusted, colors chosen with utmost mindfulness, and the list goes on. Hundreds of iteration are not out of the question! Every little detail carries a weight of importance that adds up to create an identity.
If designers can spend that much time to make visuals look super slick and oiled to maximize professionalism and identity, then the same can be said towards giving ourselves the same level of attention. Is every word I choose the best possible use of expressing who I am and how I want to appear? Is my tagline the best it could be? Is my photo professional acceptable, yet still me? Every little thing counts.
Essentially, you are a brand. Every decision made becomes your identity, and you deserve nothing less than how you want yourself to be portrayed.